Michigan HVAC License: How to Become an HVAC Contractor in Michigan
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Mastering the skills and knowledge to be an expert in HVACR technology is not a quick or easy task, but it can be a rewarding and stable career. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over 376,800 heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration mechanics and installers nationwide and Michigan employs 9,010 of them. Employment is projected to grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029 throughout the country, adding more than 15,000 of these skilled workers to the ranks. According to CareerOneStop, the U.S. Department of Labor’s job search website, that growth rate is expected to be much higher in Michigan — projected at 14%.
That statistic is supported by how many contractors are trying to find skilled tradesmen. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 2020 AGC-Autodesk Workforce Survey, 60% of firms in the U.S. and a whopping 88% of firms in Michigan had unfilled hourly craft positions on June 30, 2020. So, if you get the training you need, you will have a lot of jobs to choose from when you’re ready.
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A large part of what HVAC contractors and technicians do is replace and repair existing systems. And, as more of an emphasis is placed on energy efficiency and reducing pollution, systems need to be retrofitted, upgraded or replaced entirely to comply with these new standards. Licensing requirements for HVAC contractors vary from state to state and in some cases, from locality to locality. Michigan is fairly uniform statewide, but in some parts of the state, you may have to be registered locally as well.
Licensing Requirements for HVAC Contractors in Michigan
Is a license required to work as an HVAC professional in Michigan? Yes.
To legally perform heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration work in the state of Michigan, you must be licensed or a technician apprentice working under someone who is licensed. Mechanical Contractor licenses are issued through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). The Bureau of Construction Codes, Mechanical Division licenses Mechanical Contractors in a variety of different classifications and specialties.
The state does not license technicians, but does require a special license for repairing or installing boilers. In 2017, the Skilled Trades Regulation Act became law and consolidated regulations for five skilled trade industries including mechanical or HVAC/R to create one uniform code that streamlined and made the application, testing, and renewal processes for these skilled trades consistent. Some of Michigan’s cities still retain the authority to require state-licensed tradesmen to register with their own governing agencies, so you always want to check with the jurisdiction where you intend to work to make sure you’re following any local requirements.
Types of HVAC Licenses in Michigan
What are the different types of HVAC licenses in Michigan?
According to the Bureau of Construction Codes, Mechanical Contractors can perform installations, alterations, servicing, and secure permits when licensed in one of the classifications below.
Hydronic heating and cooling and process piping
Limited heating service
Unlimited heating service
Limited refrigeration and air conditioning service
Unlimited refrigeration and air conditioning service
Solar Heating and Cooling
Solid Fuel and Vented Decorative Gas Appliances
LP Distribution Piping
Fuel Gas Piping
Fuel Gas Piping and Venting
You are required to have three years of experience in each of the work classifications that you apply for licensing. You are permitted to apply for your initial license and then apply for additional classifications as you gain experience in each of them.
Steps to Get an HVAC License in Michigan
Be at least 18 years of age.
Have a high school diploma or GED Certificate.
Attend formal HVAC diploma or certificate program or earn a two-year degree at a community college, vocational/trade school, or university; or
Get a formal apprenticeship through a local union or trade organization or an informal apprenticeship through a sponsoring employer as an entry-level worker supervised by a licensed contractor.
Acquire three years of experience in one or more of the mechanical contractor classifications.
Apply for your Mechanical Contractor License through LARA and pay a $300 application fee.
Once approved through the Mechanical Division, pay a testing fee and pass the licensing exam.
Receive your statewide license and renew it yearly. As you acquire the required three years of experience in other classifications, add them to your mechanical contractor license.
Benefits of Getting an HVAC License in Michigan
There are many benefits you’ll see from getting your Michigan HVAC Contractor license:
Most importantly, it is required by law in Michigan to be licensed through the state to perform heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration work.
A trade license is proof of your experience and skill.
Only licensed HVAC contractors can: operate a business and advertise services, obtain commercial insurance, pull building permits and pass inspections, bid on public and government projects.
Having a license protects your company and customers.
A license gives you a competitive advantage in the job market.
It also increases your earning potential.
What Is the Median Salary for an HVAC Professional in Michigan?
The annual mean wage for HVAC mechanics and installers in Michigan is $50,150, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s just slightly lower than the Bureau says the national annual mean wage of $51,420 is for HVAC mechanics and installers. According to indeed.com, those salaries increase with experience and training and are as follows:
HVAC Installer: The average salary for an HVAC installer is $21.29 per hour in Michigan and $6,094 overtime per year.
HVAC Technician: The average salary for an HVAC Technician is $22.44 per hour in Michigan and $5,250 overtime per year.
HVAC Mechanic: The average salary for an HVAC Mechanic is $33.84 per hour in Michigan and $8,750 overtime per year.
HVAC Supervisor: The average salary for an HVAC Supervisor is $78,897 per year in Michigan and $11,250 overtime per year.
Salary can vary widely depending on the city where you work and other factors like education, certifications, additional skills, and the number of years you have spent in your profession.
How Much Does It Cost to Get an HVAC Contractor License in Michigan?
If you want to get started in the field, you will most likely want to attend a vocational school or technical or community college for a certificate program or Associate of Applied Science degree. You might even decide to go on from the associate degree to a bachelor's or a master's in HVAC Engineering Technology which will give you more management or director opportunities in your career. You will have that expense of schooling upfront. If you decide to go after an apprenticeship, you may encounter some fees but usually, your employer covers the cost. You’ll also be paid a portion of a journeyman level wage and that salary will increase as you learn.
The Michigan Mechanical Contractor application license fee is $300. The cost to take the HVAC Equipment (includes ductwork and gas piping) test for the license is $100 and the exams for each of the other classifications are $50.
How to Get an HVAC License in Michigan
Because HVAC systems are becoming increasingly complex, most aspiring HVAC professionals opt to get some post-secondary education. Alternately, you could begin with an apprenticeship that will combine hands-on training with classroom instruction and usually takes four to five years. The bottom line is that you need to learn and begin gaining the necessary work experience required for licensure.
WORK EXPERIENCE: Michigan requires anyone applying to take the licensing exam to be a Mechanical Contractor to demonstrate three years of experience working in the classification for which they want to test. You can apply and pay the $300 fee online or print the application and mail it and your check or money order to:
Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Bureau of Construction Codes/ Licensing Division P.O. Box 30255 Lansing, MI 48909
TAKE LICENSING EXAM: If your eligibility is confirmed and your application is accepted, you will be notified by PSI, the third-party testing agency to schedule and pay for your state exam. There are 14 separate exams offered for the Michigan Mechanical Trades. All of them are listed on the Candidate Information Bulletin along with information about the examination process and tips for exam prep. LARA requires that you have three years of experience in each of the classifications for which you want to test. You must receive a 70% to pass the exam. If you are successful, you will be issued your license.
How Long Does it Take to Get an HVAC Contractors License in Michigan?
It will take a minimum of three years to qualify to take the Mechanical Contractors license exam in Michigan, but you will have most likely spent some time taking classes first or an apprenticeship will take four to five years. As an apprentice, you will be earning a wage as you learn what you need to pass the state licensing exam. Likewise, if you take classes first as part of a certificate program or earn an Associate degree, you’ll still need to acquire the required three years of experience and you’ll be getting paid while you do.
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Michigan HVAC Training Programs and Schools
There are many programs to get the training you need to become an HVAC professional in Michigan, and they are located all over the state.
There are currently two main organizations that approve HVAC programs and schools nationwide: HVAC Excellence and the Partnership for Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA).
Each of those organizations has accredited one school in Michigan.
HVAC Excellence has accredited Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor.
PARAH has accredited Grand Rapids Community College in Grand Rapids.
HVACClasses.org breaks down the credit hour requirements and tuition costs for all of the different programs at each of the above schools.
There are many more schools that are well known for HVAC technology degrees in Michigan. Among them is Ferris State University which not only has a two-year associate degree but the option to build on to that and earn a Bachelor of Science in HVAC/R Engineering.
Here are four great lists of the best HVAC schools in Michigan:
Niche: 2021 Best Colleges with HVAC and Refrigeration Engineering Technician Degrees in Michigan
You’ll see that many of the same colleges or programs appear on all these lists.
Tuition: The Cost of Tuition depends on the program you choose. The Associate in Applied Science program at Grand Rapids Community College mentioned above costs about $7,000 for residents, $15,000 for non-residents, and $22,000 for out-of-state students. The certificate programs costs about half of that. The AAS at Washtenaw Community College costs about $5,700 for in-district students, $9,800 for out-of-district, and $13,600 for out-of-state students. The certificate programs cost less than half of that.
Apprenticeships can run from $500 to $2,000 or more and often are completely employer sponsored. Michigan’s Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity maintains a website of Registered Apprenticeships that meet national standards for registration with the U.S. Department of Labor. Apprenticeships through the Department of Labor are recognized nationwide, so your credentials will move with you.
Program Prerequisites: You must be at least 18 years old and have a high school diploma or a GED.
On-the-Job Experience: While on the job, you will need to have good customer service skills, be detail-oriented, have some mechanical capability, and be physically fit because the job can include some heavy lifting and hours of walking, standing, and working in tight spaces.
Michigan HVAC Licensing Exam Details
The examination is administered by PSI testing services. To prepare PSI suggests:
Start with a current copy of the Candidate Information Bulletin and use the examination content outline as the basis of your study.
Read/study materials that cover all the topics in the content outline including the Michigan Mechanical Code and take practice tests.
Take notes on what you study. Putting information in writing helps you commit it to memory and it is also an excellent business practice. Discuss new terms or concepts as frequently as you can with colleagues. This will test your understanding and reinforce ideas.
Your studies will be most effective if you study frequently, for periods of about 45 to 60 minutes. Concentration tends to wander when you study for longer periods of time.
Each of the 14 exams is described in detail including the number of questions and the time limit to complete it. The Bulletin will also specify which reference materials you may use and what items are not allowed in the testing center. There are seven PSI testing centers in Michigan and they are located in Dearborn, Holt, two in Southfield, Grand Rapids, Gaylord, and Marquette.
LARA also provides a reference list on its website of materials that can help you prepare for each of the various exams.
Who Issues HVAC Contractor Licenses in Michigan?
Mechanical Contractor licenses are issued through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), Bureau of Construction Codes, Mechanical Division. Several jurisdictions including Detroit, Dearborn, Saginaw, and Grand Rapids also have local governing agencies for issuing mechanical licenses within those municipalities. Be sure to check with local governments where you intend to work to make sure you meet any additional licensing or permitting requirements.
Does My Michigan HVAC Contractor License Work in Any Other State?
Michigan does not have any specific reciprocity agreements with any other states; however, legislation has been introduced that will make current military personnel, veterans, and their dependents eligible for license reciprocity in Michigan. “Servicemembers will be eligible if they hold a valid occupational license in another state, are in good standing with no pending disciplinary action, and demonstrate competency in their profession through education, training and/or work experience. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) will determine whether these criteria are satisfied.”
HVAC Specific Requirements: EPA Certification
Everywhere throughout the country, including Michigan, federal-level EPA regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act require that technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release refrigerants into the atmosphere must be certified. EPA Section 608 HVAC Certification is required for any professional who conducts refrigerant line-pressure tests or handles or adds refrigerant to existing air conditioning systems.
Most training programs can direct you to how and where to get that certification, or your employer will require you to get it before handling refrigerant. You can also go to EPA.gov and key in 608 Certification in the search bar to find out which institutions in your state offer certification programs.
Take Certification Exam: You must acquire your EPA Certification from an approved organization. A list of these organizations can be found on the EPA’s website. There are four types of EPA Certifications for Refrigerant. They allow for different levels of certification for different scopes of work.
Type I – for servicing small appliances containing five pounds of refrigerant or less.
Type II – for servicing high-pressure units that contain five pounds or more of refrigerant (including most small commercial and residential systems).
Type III – for servicing or disposing of low-pressure appliances.
Universal – for servicing all systems and appliances covered under Types I, II, and III. Generally more useful than targeting any one specific certification.
For all certifications, you must pass the “Core Section” of the EPA certification exam. It covers the following topics:
Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocol
Section 608 regulations
Substitute refrigerants and oils
The Three R’s (Recover, Recycle, Reclaim)
National HVAC Certifications
Other certifications can help you demonstrate your proficiency to potential employers and clients. North American Technical Excellence (NATE) certification, ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers) certification, and other professional certifications are not required but can add to your marketability as a service provider and therefore increase your opportunity to make more money.
There is currently no continuing education requirement to renew your Michigan Mechanical Contractor license. Mechanical contractor licenses expire every three years. You should receive notice at least 60 days before expiration with renewal instructions and the fee required.
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